Tomorrow we will celebrate the feast of the Circumcision of the Lord in Cheltenham.
This celebration joins the Afterfeast of the Nativity to the Forefeast of the Theophany, joining the rites of the old covenant (signified by circumcision) to the new covenant (signified by baptism) through the salvific earthly-life and work of Christ.
The Church Fathers see this feast as the effective abolition of the old rites by Christ leading us from circumcision to the saving waters of baptism in the coming feast of His Theophany. As St John of Damascus says in the canon,
“The transcendent Word Who became incarnate hath been circumcised that the law might cease; and He hath given us the beginning of divine grace and life incorruptible.” (Canon, Ode III)
The fathers see the feast as the passing from law to grace:
“Circumcision hath ceased since Christ was willingly circumcised, saving the multitude of nations by grace.” (Canon, Ode IV)
The Lord’s submission to the Law, even though He is the giver of the law, and His willingness to suffer in the flesh to the shedding of blood – a foretokening of His passion – is a sign of his love and the humility of God – a phrase which seems shocking: the personal source of all that exists, the creator and giver of life bows down to embrace humanity and even accede to the religious laws given to His chosen people.
This this is a feast which continues to demonstrate the self-effacing and sacrificial love of the Incarnation. ‘He came down to earth from heaven, Who is God and Lord of all…’ and suffers in His economy of salvation even as an eight day old child.
“He Who is invisible in essence hath now become visible in the flesh; the uncreated Word hath now taketh form, born of the pure Virgin. * Wherefore, following the law for the sake of mankind, He hath been circumcised as a babe eight days of age. Let us therefore worship Him as our Saviour.”
As we move from one feast to another, S prazdnikom!
In Christ – Fr Mark